Category Archives: strawberries

Deconstructed Summer Fruit Tart

deconstructed blueberry tart

Deconstructed desserts are very mod these days, you know. They also happen to be both a lazy and single person’s version of a tart, capturing the flavors and textures without the work of assembling an entire creation, which I like to save for parties or potlucks. I typically use an almond tart crust for the more official version of this dessert, but couldn’t quite be bothered without an occasion, so topped pastry creme and berries with loosely chopped toasted almonds instead. If you want to tie it together, drizzle a little honey or jam over top.

A few more items you may be interested in. First and most self-aggrandizing, I now have an Instagram! Follow me @dancingtreekitchen. I only have a few pictures up so far but if you want to keep up with what’s cooking in Dancing Tree Kitchen in real time, that’s the new spot! Expect lots of food and a few nature shots (mostly trees), because that’s what inspires me to pull out my camera.

blueberries

I don’t often share stories about trees, because I get so caught up in the food and ag-gy news, but it just so happens that there are many people who love trees as I do, and some of them expressed it when trees were assigned email addresses. I will now be accepting odes to your favorite tree…

Human vaccines have turned out to be rather controversial for parents worried about unknown side effects, but as a whole they have been hugely beneficial in that small task of preventing humans from dying… what about plant vaccines? Researchers are trying to find ways to help boost a plant’s immune system, instead of adding external protections like pesticides. Seems like a good idea to me, although of course it depends on implementation.

And if you’re wondering how the Greeks can become a little more stable, I think this guy growing his own food has the right idea.

deconstructed berry tart materials

“Summer fruit” is intentionally ambiguous in this -recipe-. Your particular landscape and certainly the weather and seasons will probably have different fruits coming up every week. Here in Maine, we are in that fantastically lucky timeframe when blueberries are beginning to proliferate but strawberries are still abounding, and sweeter than at the beginning of the season.

I love pastry creme with raw berries. Another fabulous option is grilled stone fruit, which I tested for the first time last week to the gastronomic delight of my roommates. Cut peaches or plums in half, remove the pit, and grill for a few minutes until soft. They get warm and caramelly; my plums highlighted the delicate almond flavor in the creme. Fabulous.

grilled plums with pastry creme
(I was too busy eating to capture a good picture, apologies)

Deconstructed Summer Fruit Tart
Pastry creme
1 1⁄4 cups half and half 
2 Tablespoons cornstarch 
3 egg yolks 
1 tsp vanilla, or 1/4 tsp almond extract
3 Tablespoons sugar 
2 1⁄2 Tablespoons butter

Summer fruit (berries, stone fruit, grilled stone fruit, a combination...)
Almonds, or other nuts, toasted and chopped to desired texture
Honey or jam for drizzling

Pastry creme (involves lots of whisking to prevent it from curdling): Heat half and half in the microwave until almost boiling. In medium saucepan, whisk together the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. Add the hot half and half slowly, whisking continuously, then bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Keep at a boil, whisking, for 1-2 minutes—it should be thick and creamy. Remove from heat and scrape into a bowl. Let sit for a minute or two, then whisk in the butter and vanilla/other flavoring. Let cool—once cool enough, press plastic wrap directly onto surface to prevent a skin from forming, and place in refrigerator.

Serve a dollop of cold pastry creme with fresh or grilled fruit, sprinkled with nuts and drizzled with a little honey or jam. Happy summer!

P.S. I highly recommend going blueberry picking! Ask around for the non-secret secret spots near you and bring your friends and containers. Don’t go at dusk though, I ended up with an enormous array of bug bites (including one on my ankle that swelled up rather nicely for the subsequent few days).

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Strawberries, Chocolate Whipped Cream, and Pecan Shortcake

IMG_1878I know, this is late for the seasonality bit. I’m the worst. But if you have spent the fleeting strawberry season putting them in pies, jam, fresh on tarts, eating them for breakfast with yogurt and granola as a parfait, if your freezer is full of strawberries because you didn’t know where else to put them… you are missing out. Because this is the first and best use of strawberries. Well, second only to eating them sun-warmed from the field, staining your fingers with dripping red juice.

The three parts of this dessert are each delicious on their own. Even paired with only one other component they are fantastic. But all together, they are heavenly.

Shortcake is basically a slightly sweet biscuit or a soft scone cut in a circle. The pecans make it more complex and give it some texture. Flour can actually be found locally (Maine Grains makes a whole wheat pastry flour that is great, although definitely more expensive than other flours), as can butter and cream. No one grows pecans or chocolate in Maine, unfortunately. Although who knows how our climate will change in the next couple years.

Strawberries
Strawberries

Pecan Shortcake
3 ½ cups flour
½ cup pecans, toasted
2 T baking powder
¾ t salt
6 T sugar
12 T butter, cut in small pieces- very cold
1 ½ c cold heavy cream

Chocolate Whipped Cream
1.5 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup whipping cream
Vanilla

For the shortcake: Grind pecans briefly in food processor. If you have a large processor, add flour, salt, powder, sugar. Pulse briefly, then add cold chunks of butter. Pulse briefly – the mixture should have pea sized chunks of butter. Add cold cream. Pulse briefly until dough begins to clump together, but stop before it forms a ball (this can be done fairly easily by hand, just make sure you cut up the butter a lot before mixing it in. I like to cut it up in very small chunks then put it in the freezer to make sure it stays cold). Remove dough from bowl and knead briefly so it holds together, then flatten it to ½ – ¾ inch. Cut with 2 inch round cutter.

Bake in a preheated 425ºF oven for 12-18 minutes, until they are golden and puffy.

Meanwhile, whip the cream (I like doing this by hand, but whatever you like. With very thick cream you have to be careful not to overwhip it – and it’s easier to pay attention when you can feel it) until it has very soft peaks, then add a splash of vanilla and whip a little more. Gently fold in the melted chocolate (do make sure it’s not still warm before adding it, or it will melt all your well-made bubbles). Alternatively, you can heat up the cream and the chocolate together and chill it before whipping, although you have to be extra careful not to overwhip that, as it gets very thick and can easily become chocolate butter, which is just not the same.

When the shortcakes come out, split them open and serve them warm, topped with the room temperature strawberries and then cold whipped cream.

You will end up with far too many shortcakes. Freeze them. Or eat them for breakfast (they toast well).

No time for shortcake? Whipping up some cream and folding in some melted chocolate takes about 5 minutes.

P1010720

My chocolate didn’t quite mix into the cream here, as you can see. But it was still amazing. I’m drooling even thinking about it.

Strawberry Arugula Goat Cheese Salad

Evidently I have a lot of arugula and strawberries. Which is what happens when you have a CSA. Let me explain Community Supported Agriculture as I understand it: basically, the community (i.e. consumer) is sharing the risk of farming with the farmer. You pay upfront for a certain amount of time (say, $350 for 18 weeks) and then each week (although winter ones are different because they are storage crops, and have pick-ups every fortnight or month) you go to the farm or to your pick-up location and collect a box of whatever happens to be in season. If it’s a good season, you will probably save money based on grocery-store prices (and the produce will be fresher and more delicious), although if it’s a bad season, you may not be enjoying as many vegetables as you hoped for. There are also meat, cheese, apple, and poultry (among others, I imagine) CSAs. It’s great for the farmers, because farming can be quite a costly investment and very dependent upon the weather, and the consumer gets super fresh in-season vegetables, sees the farm, probably will save money, and doesn’t have to make decisions at the grocery store. It helps me out a lot, because I don’t feel like I have to really plan menus for the week before going shopping – I just pick up my bags and discover what the week has in store for me. It’s fun because sometimes it does require a little ingenuity, but you get to experiment with ingredients and see what recipes and combinations you like best.

Also, what grows together, goes together. Which is certainly the case with this salad. We had some hot weather and I was really feeling salads, so I found this one by Mark Bittman (who is amazing, by the way, read his things).

P1010567Arugula can be tricky to deal with. In some ways it’s just like lettuce, but it is definitely a little bitter and can be spicy too, so not always for everyone. However, even tossing it lightly with a bit of vinegar does wonders at mitigating overly-strong flavors. You’ll be surprised.

Strawberry Arugula Goat Cheese Salad
Arugula
Strawberries, hulled and quartered
Balsamic vinegar
Black pepper
Salt
Olive oil
Fresh goat cheese

Toss the strawberries, pepper, and vinegar together and let them sit for about 10 minutes, maybe while you get out the cheese and or make some toast to go with it. Add the arugula, salt, and olive oil and toss some more, then top with the goat cheese. Enjoy!

Again, no amounts. Part of preparing food like salads for oneself  is making exactly however much you will eat – once it’s assembled, it won’t last that long, so better if you just finish it all at once. Also, you may prefer more or less vinegar, so you decide. Start with a teaspoon or so and go from there. Also, I put in some mesclun (which is the baby spring mix salad green variety) because I had some that needed using up: you are not limited to arugula.

I added the goat cheese because a) it is delicious and b) it’s an excellent way to make it into a full meal. I’m not a vegetarian but I don’t eat a lot of meat (it is delicious but much more expensive; and also a lot of meat these days has a questionable source and may be full of antibiotics and other problems. I call myself a part-time vegetarian). Some of you meat-and-potatoes folks might be a little skeptical, but salads can make very excellent meals. You will probably have to eat more volume, but they can be quite filling and if you add things like cheese (or nuts/seeds/chick peas, etc), lasting as well.

If you want to make this 4th-of-July appropriate, you could add blueberries, since it’s already got the red and white. They aren’t in season in Maine right now but you can find them frozen if you do want to get local ones. I would suggest putting them straight from the freezer into the vinegar with the strawberries (go easy on the blueberries though, they can easily overwhelm the other delicate flavors). Although you may end up with a purple and white salad rather than red, white, and blue.